In 1974, the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to two men, Anthony Hewish and Sir Martin Ryle, for the discovery of pulsars, the dead remnants of massive stars left behind after the massive supernova explosions that ended their lives, a kind of star which had previously only been theorized to exist. However, the bulk of the work that led to the discovery from seven years earlier had actually been done by Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Hewish’s graduate student and one of the few female astronomers at the time.
Despite her incredibly important contributions being overlooked, Bell Burnell remained an active researcher. Last week, 50 years after her work as a graduate student, she earned the $3 million Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for her discovery of pulsars which revolutionized our understanding of the universe. Even more revolutionary, her personal experience has inspired her to donate the whole thing.